Love from Others
The Love of Others: Presence, Joy and Discovery
Early in my spiritual journey, I encountered the idea that we can experience God through our relationships. As Victor Hugo so powerfully wrote in my favorite novel, Les Miserables, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” I still hold tightly to that idea — but in the last year, my belief in this idea has expanded. I’ve discovered that receiving love from another person is also a way to experience God actively at work in our lives. I personally experienced God’s love through the ways that others poured love, care and help into my life.
Throughout my life, I’ve found solace and strength through being self-reliant and independent. I enjoy being helpful to others, but I’m the first to admit that I have walls. I tend to avoid situations where I have to rely on others. Asking for help, even receiving help, requires a vulnerability that I’m hesitant to practice. But, nearly a year ago, an unexpected injury rendered me more physically and emotionally helpless than I’ve ever felt. On a cold Monday night, my parents’ dog (a beloved member of the family), unexpectedly bit me, snapping and detaching the tip of my right ring finger from the rest of the digit. After being rushed to the hospital and undergoing microsurgery to reattach my fingertip, I faced a lengthy physical and emotional healing process. The nature of my injury left my right hand nearly useless and in a great deal of pain for nearly two months. In those months, and in the months to follow, I learned how to reach out and accept help when it was offered. To avoid becoming completely helpless, I had to be helped.
As my finger recovered, I received more love and support than I can probably ever quantify or completely recognize. It’s through the help I received from other people that I’ve witnessed reflections of God and His love in my life. I’m still working on becoming more available to receiving love (and help) from others — and this is helping me to pursue becoming a truer image-bearer of God’s love.
Presence and Joy: Being known Through the Love of Others
I’ll always be thankful for the ways that others loved and helped me in my time of need. It was difficult for me to receive help from anyone — especially my parents. But they lovingly persisted in their helpfulness through their presence and acts of service — driving me to work, doctor appointments and social gatherings; opening containers and preparing food; helping me take my medicine on schedule; placing a space heater in my room to help my finger stay at an optimal temperature (75 degrees Fahrenheit) and sitting with me through my tears and pain. They knew my pain because they were there with me in my pain. And more than that, I was known to them even in my state of great physical and emotional pain. The ways in which my parents responded to my needs — voiced and unvoiced — reflected God’s love in a way that I didn’t understand previously. Through the love they demonstrated to me, I saw that God was also with me through the pain. And because He was with me (is with me) even in my pain, He understood my needs. Like my parents, He knew my needs and responded to them even when I was too tired, proud or insecure to ask for help.
Once the threats of infection and loss of circulation passed, I was able to return to work, church and my social life. Equipped with a new sense of strength in my vulnerability, I was able to ask for help (mostly with opening doors and water bottles) and voice my needs. Because they were aware of my needs, friends, coworkers and fellow Imagoans celebrated with me as I reached milestones in my healing. I shared joy with my friend who cried with me in relief when I shared that I would get to keep my fingertip; with my coworker who found out that she wouldn’t need to help me open water bottles any longer and with my fellow Imago musicians when I was able to play the guitar again at church.
In the last year, I’ve learned about the love of others in one of the most powerful ways — through experiencing the love of others. Vulnerability is still not my strong suit — and I’m still working on building up more bravery in that area of my life — but I’m learning that there is beauty in asking for help, receiving help, and making myself open to the love of others in my life.
Laura works as a marketing strategist for a local healthcare company and an adjunct professor at Greenville University. She enjoys leading worship at Imago, heartfelt conversations, communication theory, authentic travel experiences, melancholy music, the smell of peonies and the sound of ocean waves. In case you were wondering, she is a 4 with a 5 wing on the Enneagram, an I/ENFP and her top five strengths are Intellection, Connectedness, Strategic, Learner and Input.